Philosophy 215: Contemporary Moral Issues
Syllabus -- Summer Semester 2011                           

Class meets May 16 - June 3, MA 166, daily 10:45am - 2:00pm  (includes half hour lunch break)

Instructor: Theodore Gracyk     Phone: (218) 477-4089    
Office: Bridges 359B  

Application of ethical theories to contemporary moral issues, such as world hunger, punishment, sexual equality, sexual behavior, abortion, the environment, corporate responsibility, and war.

My goals for this course:

  1. Students will understand differences between major normative theories.

  2. Students will understand core concepts of ethical analysis.

  3. Students will apply normative theories to cases and demonstrate understanding of how different theories generate competing solutions.

  4. Students will write essays defending personal decisions in complex moral situations.

  5. Students will critically reflect on moral problems and their own moral positions

 Dragon Core Competencies for this course

  • Understand core ethical concepts including right, wrong, duty, virtue, vice, care, harm, and respect and use them to articulate their own ethical views.
  • Explain the grounds of their ethical and civic commitments and respond constructively to those whose beliefs differ.
  • Make responsible personal, professional, and civic decisions and evaluate how these affect other people.
  • Analyze and reflect on the ethical dimensions of legal, social, cultural and/or scientific issues.
  • Identify ways to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Required Texts:    Bring this book to class every day.

James E. White, Contemporary Moral Problems, 10th edition
   ISBN 0840033788

Grading Policies

You will be graded on the following things:

  • Three exams (open book) -- 80% of final course grade
  • Homework assignments -- 10% of final course grade
  • Frequent in-class writing -- 10%

Your final course grade will be calculated using the +/- system.

In-class writing is automatically late if not handed to the professor during the class period in which it is written. In-class writing will often draw upon the assigned readings in order to determine if you have done the reading.

Official University Events and medical emergencies for self or immediate family are the sole basis for exceptions to the above policies, and will require evidence (e.g., a note from your athletics coach for a university sports event or a note from your doctor).

Cell Phone & Texting Policy

Please be courteous to others. TURN OFF all cell phones before class begins. If a cell phone disrupts class, I reserve the right to remove the disruptive student from the class session. If a student spends class time by texting, I will interpret this behavior to mean that my presence is a disruption to your social life and I will respond by going back to my office.


Read the assignment in advance of class on the date indicated.

 May 16 -- First Day of Class
May 17 -- Affluence (Singer, page 331, & Hardin, page 339)
May 18 -- Euthanasia (Rachels, page 154, & Brock, page 164)
May 19  -- Punishment (Kant, page 212)
May 20  -- First Exam
May 23  -- Punishment (Van den Haag, page 214 & Reiman, page 220)
May 24  -- Abortion (Roe V. Wade, page 87, & Thomson, page 102)
May 25  -- Abortion (Warren, page 111, & Marquis, page 122)
May 26   -- Animal Rights  (Singer, page 277); War (Brough, page 423)
May 27  -- Second Exam
May 30  --
May 31  -- War (Lackey page 410) & Terrorism (Calhoun, page 433)
June 1  --
 Terrorism (Luban page 442) &Same-Sex Marriage (Jordan, page 236,  )
June 2  --
Same-Sex Marriage (Gallagher, page 261 & Rauch, page  253)
June 3  -- Third Exam

Notice of disability services 

The Minnesota State University of Moorhead is committed to a policy of equal opportunity in education and employment and welcomes students with disabilities. We are prepared to to offer you a range of services to accommodate your needs.

However, students must accept responsibility for initiating the request for services. 

Students with disabilities who believe they may need an accommodation in this class are encouraged to contact Greg Toutges, Coordinator of Disability Services at 477-2131 (Voice) or 1-800-627-3529 (MRS/TTY), CMU 114 as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion

Do not discuss your needs with me, your instructor. Talk to Greg Toutges and he will contact me.


Plagiarism is passing off somebody else's writing or ideas as your own. There is nothing wrong in consulting any number of sources to help you understand what we are studying (whether an article in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy or a web site or Cliffs Notes) but it is stealing to take material without first paraphrasing it completely into your own words, or without placing it in quotation marks. (Rule of thumb: if you take more than two consecutive words from a source, put them in quotation marks, and if the idea behind a sentence comes from an outside source, acknowledge that source!) Any time you consult and draw on ideas from any source, you should cite your source. Taking ideas from another person and pretending that they are your own, original thoughts, is also plagiarism. The fact that your source was an assigned text for the course does not mitigate or lessen the seriousness of plagiarism.

Students sometimes claim unintentional or accidental plagiarism. It is difficult for an instructor to judge whether the plagiarism was intentional or unintentional. Basically, the latter occurs when a student reads a secondary source or takes notes, writes a paper without looking at the source or the notes, and accidentally uses phrasing and ideas from that source. Or a student may attempt to paraphrase an author's ideas, but fails to put it completely into his or her own words. (If you paraphrase and don't cite your source, that's evidence of intentional plagiarism.)

If evidence demonstrates that you have plagiarized any part of any written assignment for the course, the offense will be reported to the Judicial Affairs Office and you will receive a failing grade for the course.

In short, if you use an outside source, simply provide footnotes or citations in parentheses where appropriate. 

For further information, click here

                Last updated May 15, 2011